On September 18, 2012, we were asked by the County to consider several decisions related to reparations for the Rogers Road neighborhood, which bore the burden of the nearby landfill for many years.  A newly-formed Historic Rogers Road Neighborhood Task Force had been meeting for several months, and out of the group came several recommendations for the three jurisdictions (Chapel Hill, Orange County and Carrboro) involved in the legal entanglements of the Rogers Road community  to consider.  One was to discuss how much each jurisdiction might be willing to allocate toward a sewer infrastructure that would serve the historic Rogers Road properties.  Another was to consider allocating money to go toward construction of a community center for the neighborhood (a community center had been informally operating in the neighborhood, but had been forced to close due to several code violations).  The County had already signaled their intent to contribute financially to these two initiatives.

The Board members present (Dan Coleman was absent) were unanimous in agreeing that money should be allocated toward improvements in the neighborhood, although we discussed several logistical concerns about the proposals.  With regard to the sewer infrastructure, we wondered if future developers would really be the ones to ultimately benefit from the sewer extension, rather than current residents.  We also discussed concerns with the ongoing operating costs that would be associated with any community center that was built.  We further noted that there was a community center planned for a church property being developed on Rogers Road, and wondered whether it made sense to pursue a joint venture with the church.  We also were concerned about agreeing to allocate a percentage of money toward what was currently an unknown total cost.

Ultimately, the Board voted 6-0 “that the Town of Carrboro has the intention of contributing not more than $900,000 for the Town’s portion of the community center and cost of the sewer project.” We also directed the Town Manager to research funding sources, and investigate how the Town could recoup the sewer line investment costs from future developers.  We also expressed our appreciation to the County for their commitment to the project and requested that the Town of Chapel Hill consider their share of the contribution.

A lot has been happening this spring, so I thought I would summarize a few matters with this post.  One is that I have been involved in more extra meetings than I thought possible working on our MPO’s transit plan, which includes expanded bus service as well as a light rail line between UNC Hospitals and Alston Ave.  We are under the gun to convince the Orange County and Durham County Commissioners to vote to have a transit tax on the ballot this fall; this money would go toward the transit plan with money from other sources such as a vehicle tax increase and federal and state funds.  The transit tax, however, is a key component in the plan, and one that will require voter education and buy-in if it is indeed on the ballot.

Another bit of news is that our town manager, Steve Stewart, announced that he will be retiring at the end of the summer, and so we have begun the process of hiring a search firm to help us fill this most critical position.  In my opinion (and I am not alone), Steve has done a fine job as town manager, and our task will be challenging as we seek to find someone who brings his level of skill and experience to the position. 

Speaking of the Town Manager, Steve masterfully presented another tax-increase free budget to us this month for the upcoming fiscal year.  He accomplished this predominantly by cost cutting where possible, keeping some positions vacant, and delaying some capital purchases.  These are not options we can do every year, but as the economy improves, hopefully we will be able to restore money in areas where we have had to cut or delay expenses.

We voted at one of our meetings to a rezoning for a property off of Hillsborough Road so that the County could consider an option to purchase the property to build a Carrboro branch library on the site.  Many residents came out to speak in favor of the project, but there were also several residents (mostly neighbors) who spoke who did not want the site rezoned for a library.  Although we ended up voting for the rezoning (a supermajority vote of six affirmative votes out of the seven members was required because a protest petition had been submitted by neighbors), we also expressed concern about the plans for traffic flow to the library and the impact on the streets surrounding the property.  When the site plan comes before us in the future, we will be looking at this closely. 

Finally, at one of our meetings, we reviewed the parking deck that will be constructed at the East Main Street project.  We gave comments and feedback to the developer, and were told that they hoped to break ground later this summer on both the parking deck and the hotel on the property.  This is a much anticipated project in Carrboro, one that will be a key to our plan for growth in the downtown area.

It has been a busy spring!

 We voted at our meeting on March 17, 2009 to approve a special use permit for phases IV and V of Claremont on Homestead Road.  Safety concerns about the project were the major focus of discussion at the public hearings for this project. 

The first safety concern dealt with the crossing of Homestead Road.  When these phases of Claremont are complete, these residents will need to go back and forth across Homestead Road to use the community swimming pool (already built in one of the earlier phases).  To alleviate these concerns, the project includes a greenway that will run under a nearby bridge on Homestead Road providing access from one side to the other, although it is a short distance down from the swimming pool.  The most obvious place where people will want to cross the street looks to be near the entrance roads for the Claremont communities off of Homestead Road.  After petitioning for a light of some sort in this area, DOT is allowing a marked pedestrian crossing with a pedestrian refuge island for persons walking across Homestead Road at Claremont Drive.  It seems obvious that at some future point we will petition again for a blinking light, stoplight or pedestrian light as we observe and can better quantify how traffic patterns in this area develop.

A second safety concern was from residents who live near this project.  These residents believe that phase V should not have a connector road leading south through Colfax Road, because this would result in dangerous, high speed traffic in that area and neighboring streets.  These residents preferred only a pedestrian walkway at this connection.  Because of the overwhelming concerns of these citizens, in lieu of a connector road, the Board voted to have the developer instead construct an asphalt path wide enough for fire emergency access south to Colfax Drive, where bollards must be installed.  The Board noted that in the future, when other road connections are built out on this side of Homestead Road, this could become a full-street connection.  Joal Hall Brown was the only Board member voting against the permit, citing overall safety concerns.

This vote drew criticism from at least one member of the Planning Board, and probably confused those in town who are in strong support of the connector road policy.  These persons argue that if a connector road could not be built here (where there is a sidewalk on one side and a neighboring collector street), how is the connector road policy ever justified?  Won’t residents often, if not always, make the argument that more traffic means less safety?  These are good questions.  The Board will be reviewing the connector road policy at some point in the near future, and I am hopeful that the intention and effect of the policy will be discussed and reviewed again at that time.